BJP shocked at SP win in Yogi stronghold

In a shock defeat to the BJP,  Samajwadi Party candidates supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party on Wednesday grabbed the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, in Uttar Pradesh, from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Samajwadi Party's Praveen Kumar Nishad defeated BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla with 21,881 votes in Gorakhpur while in Phulpur, Samajwadi Party candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated the ruling party's Kaushlendra Singh Patel with 59,613 votes.

In Bihar the BJP managed to retain one Assembly seat out of the two that went for mid-term poll and lost the single Lok Sabha seat.

The significant story is the ruling BJP's loss in UP, which the BJP had won covincingly barely a year ago. The two Lok Sabha seats in UP, were vacated by chief minister Yogi Adityanath (Gorakhpur) and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya (Phulpur).

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP leaders admitted the party was still reliant on th ppeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to win elections.

BJP's loss in Gorakhpur is the first in three decades, while Maurya's victory in Phulpur in 2014 at the height of the Modi wave was its first.

Even as the results were pouring in, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav along with party leader Ram Govind Chaudhary met BSP chief Mayawati to thank her for her party's support,  as well as indicate that it was prepared for a larger anti-BJP combine in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The election witnessed  low voter turnout – approximately 47 per cent in Gorakhpur and about 38 per cent in Phulpur, which the BJP attributed for its loss.

Voting percentages indicate that despite a late pact, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party fared better in convincing their supporters to vote in the by-elections.

In Gorakhpur, the urban assembly segment, which includes the Gorakhnath Mutt of which chief minister Yogi Adityanath is the head priest, recorded the lowest turnout of 37.76 per cent among all the five that make up the Lok Sabha constituency.

This is the first time in 29 years that the BJP hadn't named a representative of the Gorakhnath Mutt as its candidate, which commentators attribute for the BJP's poor showing.

The timing of the bypoll losses comes just four days before the Yogi government completes a year in office, for which the BJP had planned an elaborate celebration.

Moreover,  while the losses in the elections meant little in terms of numbers in Parliament, where the BJP has an overwhelming majority, they have seriously dented the prime minister's 'invincible' image.